Fate of sharks, manta ray in the balance
International marine advocates are now pressing the member countries of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to make the final decision to include five shark species and manta ray in the world's protection list.
Sharks and rays have been vigorous debated in the CITES for the last two decades. On Monday, five species of shark and the manta ray were put on a protection list after receiving the two-thirds majority needed for adoption.
The five shark species - the oceanic white-tip, scalloped hammerhead, great hammerhead, smooth hammerhead, and porbeagle shark - and the manta ray were classified under Appendix II of the CITES.
The proposals were submitted during the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, which is taking place in Bangkok through March 14, by the United States, Brazil, Colombia, the European Union, Costa Rica, Honduras, Ecuador, Mexico, Comoros, and Egypt.
However, this victory could be short won, as environmentalist and delegates have learned that leading economic powers like Japan are lobbying several countries, developing countries among them, to reopen the vote on the five shark species and manta ray proposals.
Under the CITES regulations, Japan can reopen the vote for these proposals if it can get one third majority from member countries attending the meeting.
"We have seen the delegates being approached by Japanese delegates and political and economic pressures being applied. The pressure varies according to the relationship with the country," said Ralf Sontag, a director of German International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Meanwhile, Mika Diop, a representative of the Permanent Secretary of the West African Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission, said the pressure to reopen the vote for the sharks was very strong. Several negotiations for financial assistance for developing countries, particularly West African nations, hung in the balance.
On Monday, the proposals to put five shark species and manta ray into the trade protection under the CITES’s Appendix II were supposed by 90 countries. About 30 countries were against the proposals including Japan and China.
A delegate from Japan, which opposed the proposal and asked the meeting to vote in a secret ballot, said the oceanic white-tip shark should not be listed under the CITES’s protection and urged for better regional and local fishery management.
Environmentalists are afraid that the proposals to list five shark species and manta ray will be rejected by the plenary session, pointing out that at the 2010 CITES meeting in Qatar, the porbeagle shark was adopted in the committee meeting but the proposal was later rejected by the plenary meeting.